I think I have a bona fide speed reader... not sure - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 10-23-2011, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Would appear that in a span of 18 hours or less, my 7-1/2yo started and finished book 2 of both the Harry Potter series AND the Secret Zoo series.  And actually, he read the first Secret Zoo book (341 pages) in less than 3 hours.

 

When I ask him his favorite part, he is clearly describing a section of the book; but since I haven't read them--I can't REALLY grill him for comprehension.  He gives me a nutshell of the story beginning to end and I can ask questions that he answers, but I have no idea if they're right.  I finally bought the SparkNotes for HP2 so I can dig in more.

 

Anyone else dealing with this?  Especially if your child is older?  I'd like to get words of wisdom and/or warning about it.  Although I was a gifted child and was reading by age 2, I built a habit of decoding pages and not absorbing much of what I read.  I worked really hard to try to ensure my son didn't fall into the same habit.  I did fully read the Little House books rather than decode the pages, but I have no clue if I went through them this fast.  I'm not a particularly fast reader NOW, so I'm assuming I wasn't then.  It's not like anyone says today "You were a hellaciously fast reader when you were young!" (and none of them are available to ask, and pretty sure my mother never had a clue when I switched books--my son is homeschooled, so I'm more involved in his book acquisition :)  ).


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#2 of 20 Old 10-24-2011, 01:17 PM
 
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Not sure what my experience is worth, but my eldest was speed-reading her way through up to a thousand pages a day at age 6. She was certainly getting the gist of what she was reading. I didn't ask her comprehension-type questions, but natural conversation about her books would come up and her understanding seemed fine to me.

 

At about age 7 she began doing something which seemed very odd. She had always thankfully chosen to re-read books she had loved. (She's read the first Harry Potter pretty much every year since she was 4, and she's 17 now.) But now she began reading her favourites aloud to herself -- despite claiming to hate audiobooks and having generally little time for being read aloud to. She was very systematic, working through her entire library of all-time faves in an orderly fashion. I really didn't understand why, and it was rather infuriating. She would read late at night and under her breath in an interminable mumble, because she was very self-conscious about this whole reading-aloud thing. And she would stay up way too late (because reading this way was slow) and would keep her sister awake with her sotto voce narration. Drove us all crazy, but she insisted on doing a couple of hours a night like this. 

 

A couple of years later it became apparent what the purpose of the exercise was, though I doubt she could have articulated it herself at the time: she was training herself to notice the rhythm and flow and the crafting of the language she was reading. She was picking up this whole other layer of literary awareness -- of alliteration and repetition and turning of phrases, and symbolism and of the writer's distinctive literary 'voice.' After this long phase she suddenly burst forth as an incredible writer as well as an extremely insightful literary critic and editor. She'd had to slow her reading down forcefully in order to develop this appreciation. 

 

She now reads at a more moderate rate (though she can skim at an outrageous rate if she needs to for practical reasons). She's a musician, and to her the rhythm and phrasing is an important part of the aesthetic value of literature. Getting the meaning of the words is not enough. She trained herself to read more slowly, because it increases her appreciation of what she values in literature.

 

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#3 of 20 Old 10-24-2011, 01:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No, that's worth something to me.  He just picked up the first Harry Potter book to read again.

 

I asked some friends to come up with some potential comprehension questions so I could see if he was absorbing it.  The problem is that he generally doesn't answer questions correctly off the bat, so unless *I* have read the book and can ask questions that kind of alert him to the fact that he hasn't given his answer enough thought, I don't REALLY know.  So a friend gave 10 questions, I asked him 9 of them and he only answered one of them dead-on.  But his answers to the rest made it clear that he had read the book--he just wasn't answering the questions clearly (which is very typical of him).  He has WICKED attention problems most of the time and I find that if you don't push him to give more than a flippant response to questions, he forgets to give it real thought.  It doesn't mean he doesn't know, he's just not really paying attention.  :/  He does better with a discussion to figure out if he read it than a set of questions when it comes to literature.

 

I'm not really sure what (if anything) to do about it.  But I did notice him pick up the book again today; and he HAS gone through and occasionally decided to read a book to himself out loud and I never could understand why.  But you're giving me food for thought.


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#4 of 20 Old 10-24-2011, 02:00 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heatherdeg View Post he HAS gone through and occasionally decided to read a book to himself out loud and I never could understand why.


 

I think it's really normal for kids, gifted or not, to not *get* everything going on in a book their first time through. I think it's why so many kids re-read books or enjoy books more if they are in a series because there is less to *get* in each book.

 

Both my kids test well for comprehension and both have been reading on college level for years, yet both really enjoy hearing me read out loud (which seems normal) from books they have already read (which seems goofy). They say they notice little things and connect details in a different way when I read out loud to them.

 

I think there is a vast difference between a kid not getting everything about a book on their first, quick read through and I kid having comprehension problems. Really comprehending novels is a second skill, and I think it takes lots of practice and conversation after the kid has the decoding part down pat.

 

I read a chapter of a book out loud at bed time and have been forever, (my kids are now teens) and I think our casual conversations about what we are reading has been helpful to my kids. I also think slowly the book done to this pace has been helpful to them -- they read so fast it's like woofing down food without tasting it. I also read books to myself that they've already read and talk to them about them -- not in a quizzing way, but the same way I sometimes read books that my friends have really liked and talk to my friends about the books.

 

I see a lot more value in real conversations about a few books than comprehension questions on all that a child has read. I think that the more children are allowed to just enjoy books, even if that is reading really quickly and not getting a ton out of it, the more they will continue to read, and therefore the better they will get at it.

 

 


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#5 of 20 Old 10-24-2011, 02:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I see a lot more value in real conversations about a few books than comprehension questions on all that a child has read. I think that the more children are allowed to just enjoy books, even if that is reading really quickly and not getting a ton out of it, the more they will continue to read, and therefore the better they will get at it.


Absolutely! Genuine conversation centred around the shared enjoyment of literature! This is what promotes understanding.

 

Testing understanding, on the other hand, doesn't give a particularly accurate picture of a child's thoughts, and does nothing to teach understanding. And in my family it would tend to lead my kids to distrust my motives and resist any discussion of their thoughts and ideas. We call that type of inquiry "questions that aren't questions." i.e. the adult is asking a child a question not because she wants to know the answer, but because she already knows the answer and want to make a judgement about whether the child knows it.

 

I prefer to ask my kids questions that are questions. Things I'm genuinely curious about.... "Do you find you like Kevin as a person? I remember starting out liking him a lot, but by the middle of the book I wasn't feeling that sympathetic towards him. I know the author wants us to like him, but I'm not sure that happened for me. What about you? .... How come?" 

 

Really, if a child is happily engaged in reading self-directedly, it must be serving some need in him, feeding his soul, his learning appetite or whatever. Who are we to second-guess that? Unless he's lagging in his skills and in need of possible intervention (which your ds clearly isn't!) I don't see the need to "test comprehension." 

 

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#6 of 20 Old 10-25-2011, 12:56 AM
 
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Interesting discussion. Our dd isn't nearly as fast as you've described, but she is really fast for her age. (She read the 4th or 5th book of the Harry Potter series in about 8-10 hours).

 

And recently, she's taken to wanting to type out the entire text of her favorite books. Her 'reasoning' was that this way we won't have to keep borrowing them from the library! But I wonder if it's not that she's slowing herself down to take a little more notice of details. (I, by the way, have been tapped to do the illustrations. I haven't got the heart to tell dd that I cannot draw well, even if she thinks I do!)

 

 


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#7 of 20 Old 10-25-2011, 06:39 AM
 
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Speed reader right here.  As in me.  I would always get the gist of the book but I never could articulate the details.  I forced myself to slow down.  I didn't notice I was speed reading until it became apparent that nobody else was making it through books like I was in 3rd grade. 

 

Glad you're interested in making sure he's getting what he's reading.  But then again books for enjoyment are a picture running through your head. 

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#8 of 20 Old 10-27-2011, 02:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Absolutely! Genuine conversation centred around the shared enjoyment of literature! This is what promotes understanding.

 

Testing understanding, on the other hand, doesn't give a particularly accurate picture of a child's thoughts, and does nothing to teach understanding. And in my family it would tend to lead my kids to distrust my motives and resist any discussion of their thoughts and ideas. We call that type of inquiry "questions that aren't questions." i.e. the adult is asking a child a question not because she wants to know the answer, but because she already knows the answer and want to make a judgement about whether the child knows it.

 

I prefer to ask my kids questions that are questions. Things I'm genuinely curious about.... "Do you find you like Kevin as a person? I remember starting out liking him a lot, but by the middle of the book I wasn't feeling that sympathetic towards him. I know the author wants us to like him, but I'm not sure that happened for me. What about you? .... How come?" 

 

Really, if a child is happily engaged in reading self-directedly, it must be serving some need in him, feeding his soul, his learning appetite or whatever. Who are we to second-guess that? Unless he's lagging in his skills and in need of possible intervention (which your ds clearly isn't!) I don't see the need to "test comprehension." 

 

Miranda

 

TOTALLY agreed with the bold stuff in terms of figuring out his comprehension, but not having read the books myself--I'm unable to do this.  And even if I could ask him his opinions about things, I can't really engage because I can't share my perspective and therefore see if he's even considered that and/or give examples from the book that make me think what I think (and alert me to the fact that he didn't read that part).

 

And while it may serve a need in him, if he's reading without comprehension, I don't want it to become a habit.  That happened to me (I would pretty much just decode pages.  I know he's not doing that, but not sure how much better he is).  I cannot tell you the agony and difficulty this problem cause me in my lifetime (and still does sometimes).  As an adult, it qualified as a "relative learning disability" (because it was debilitating relative to my overall functionality).
 

 


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#9 of 20 Old 10-27-2011, 03:01 PM
 
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but not having read the books myself--I'm unable to do this. 


I think it just requires different questions. "How come you like it so much?" "So is the boy the main character, or the dog? .... So, whose perspective is the story told from? .... Does the writer explain what the dog is thinking, or just what it does?" "Is it written in a realistic world, or a fantasy world? Are there things that couldn't really happen the way they do, if they were in our world? .... What do you mean, what sorts of things?" "Do you think I should read it? Is it that good that you'd recommend it? Why not?" "You know how some books appeal to certain ages and types of people, and other books appeal to almost everyone, adults and kids and male and female? Do you think this book would be liked by everyone, or mostly just kids? ... So why would boys especially like it?" "Oh, so it's more of a quest story than a mystery from the sound of it. Do you think? .... And where does he end up looking for his dad? ... Did he go all by himself?"

 

See, if you're genuinely curious about what he's been reading, those questions are 'real' and yet they also encourage him to think analytically. In my family this sort of conversation is easy to have, because we (including the adults) are always talking about things we've read and what we think of them.

 

Miranda

 

 


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#10 of 20 Old 10-27-2011, 06:01 PM
 
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I am a speed reader and my comprehension is fine. I am not gifted in any other way. English is not my mother tongue and it took me a while, but now I can read in both languages equally fast. For whatever reason it just works that way in my brain, the only time I have to slow down is if i read highly scientific texts. I was always the fastest in school and got ALWAYS doubted. it infuriated me after a while and still infuriates me. I am English Lit Major and so I am pretty sure I got tested for comprehension over and over again:) So, yes it exists and I can remember my mom going crazy whenever I put a book down and said, "Done, where is the next one??" It is a beautiful gift to have!


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#11 of 20 Old 10-28-2011, 06:08 AM
 
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And while it may serve a need in him, if he's reading without comprehension, I don't want it to become a habit.  That happened to me (I would pretty much just decode pages.  I know he's not doing that, but not sure how much better he is).  I cannot tell you the agony and difficulty this problem cause me in my lifetime (and still does sometimes).  As an adult, it qualified as a "relative learning disability" (because it was debilitating relative to my overall functionality).
 

 


I'd look at the kind of material that he is speed reading and whether it's a habit that he is carrying into all types of reading. Some stuff really doesn't deserve close attention. I just finished a novel and I read the last 100 or 200 pages in less than 20 minutes because it was atrociously written, but I wanted to finish to talk about it with DD. (It was I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, in case anyone is wondering). I think I read the entire book in a couple of hours. There are many books that I will speed read because they just aren't worth the time. My recall of those books often sucks, but it doesn't really matter. In fact, I'm often just as happy that I can't remember much about them. (I confess it is a problem if I pick up a book and realize after a chapter or two that I've already read it.) I learned, however,  to read important material carefully and thoroughly - stuff for school or work or instructions on how to operate equipment.

 

I might just determine if he is skimming and skipping details in material like instructions on how to do something or information he needs for coursework - and focus on that kind of information comprehension and retention, and let him continue with his reading for pleasure on his own terms. 

 

 

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#12 of 20 Old 10-28-2011, 06:23 AM
 
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There are a couple of things that come to mind.  First, you mention attention issues, and reading quickly, skimming, can be a piece of this.  One of my kids will speed read through books, get all of the main ideas (I know by her scores on the AR tests), but absolutely miss some details that frankly, can either be key to the material, or not, depending upon the book.  This isn't really to her advantage in school because middle school demands an attention to detail and her quick reading doesn't always allow for that.

 

My ds reads several years above grade level, but is an average to slower reader in comparison to his reading level.  His comprehension is perfect, and he gets all of the details.  However, I find that the school system rewards the faster, more fluent reader, and it is equated with comprehension.  

 

Either scenario has both positives and negatives, esp. as kids move along in their education.  I also think it is a fairly normal phase for some kids, early on in their reading career, to speed through material. 

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#13 of 20 Old 10-29-2011, 02:55 AM
 
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Wow!  Very interesting thread!  I don't have any true "speed readers", so I didn't read through this at first.

 

My gifted DD does read quickly, but perhaps not quite to the extent of the OP.  She is at the speed reading point with some non fiction, but I never thought much of it because I do the same thing.  If you skim and realize some of the information is redundant as you know  it from other sources, why read through it all?  She did have a habit of rapidly reading up to 4 fiction novels at once for a while (once again, not quite sure it would qualify as speed reading).  Like moominmama's daughter, she also rereads  books she really enjoys out loud.  I found the perspective on this interesting, as I am a musician (no longer professionally, but started that way, and still am very involved musically) and also love writing.  I used to spend hours as a teen working out how I felt about the rhythm of words.  Translations still drive me crazy because the translators often spoil the rhythm.  If I can read the original language fluently enough I prefer finding the book in it's original language.

 

Anyway, I think it's OK to enjoy books for different reasons, and the speed of the reading may be reflective of that.  Stopping to savor great writing is normal, as is skimming for plot if something is less enjoyable.  Previous posts about book discussion really resound in our family.  Nightly reading aloud from chapter books is a huge activity in our family, as is discussing books.  I think book discussing shows a lot more about comprehension than typical questions.  This is very obvious to me as I have one child who is 2E on the spectrum.  Those obnoxious school reading tests always score his reading comprehension as advanced because he can pick up on those little details the comprehension tests focus on with ease and often with excellent recall.  I know from living with him day to day that this doesn't equal getting the central point, or really putting himself into the story or the character's shoes.  It's our long discussions in the car about the Golden Compass series and how the author's Atheist perspective still resounds with CS Lewis's Christian perspective in the Narnia series (even though Philip Pullman really dislikes this author), and how much he still enjoyed both authors and view points, etc , that really convinced me he got something out of the books.  DD and I have had some equally enjoyable discussions on the Anne of Green Gables series and Charlotte Gray's Alexander Graham Bell biography," Reluctant Genius" (we never read this one out loud, but the whole family excepting our 7 year old has read this one independently and discussed it).  Discussion encourages understanding and the interaction of ideas and view points different from one's own.  If you keep discussing and being engaged in sharing about books, I don't think the skimming is a cause for concern.  It will probably iron out as he ages as a reaction to wanting to slow down to enjoy some types of writing.


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#14 of 20 Old 10-29-2011, 04:21 AM
 
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I am a speed reader as well, and I clearly remember what it was like at your ds's age. It was sometimes hard for me to explicitely explain a plot or a book, since the details did not always seem relevant to me. But I could discuss at length the tone of the book, the author's style or voice, the rythm, etc.... These things still matter a lot to me, and people are always amazed at what I'll pick out in a book (for example, I'll be able to recall a specific alliteration or literary device used by an author, even be able to quote passages, but be totally unable to recall the story.). It's hard to explain. I can, however, also speed-read and memorize, if I ''tell'' my brain that before I start reading. In university, I memorized the entire Canadian criminal code (it was the student edition, somewhat abridged), and I can still quote from it, years later. I have a photographic memory, I guess. 

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#15 of 20 Old 11-01-2011, 08:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, you have all given me a lot of different things to look at and consider.  Thanks for that.

 

I do at least know that he is not decoding the pages and getting nothing because while he may not be answering questions correctly, it's clear that he has read the story.  I'm not sure that makes sense.  An example is that if someone asks him something, he is answering in a way that makes you think he read one part of the book, but not the part that would give him the true answer to the question.  So I'm less worried about him decoding and not absorbing than I was.

 

The rest, I have to really look at.  But thanks.  Lots of thoughts here.  :)


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#16 of 20 Old 11-10-2011, 09:53 PM
 
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My oldest is a speed reader.  I had the same concerns you did about comprehension.  What I've finally figured out is that she speed reads and then, if she's in love with what she's read, she will re-read, re-read, etc.  (When she re-reads, she does not start from page 1.) 

 

She is back in school now after 3 yrs of unschooling, and reading in school is painfully difficult for her.  She agonizes at the slow pace of the class, fact that they won't let her read ahead, etc.   It's the only thing she really dislikes about school.   My point is-- I don't think slowing speed readers down is a good idea.  When DD is reading something really challenging, then she typically does not speed read, though she does not read consecutive pages (I am referring to non-fiction here).  I think speed readers know how to pace themselves. 

 

If you're concerned about standardized testing, what I've noticed within the past few months is that DD has quickly gotten used to taking them.  She used to speed read and miss things in her haste, but now (sadly) she's used to them and knows what to do.  So, again-- they adjust.

 

ETA-- Just thought of something else-- our library does monthly book clubs.  I think that type of thing helps.  Then it's not YOU "quizzing" him (no one likes that) but a real discussion w/no ulterior motive.  DD went to one tonight and got to Skype with the author of Kid. vs. Squid.  There were only 5 kids, so DD had plenty of opportunities for questions.  Parents were not present, but I know from what she told me of her questions/his answers that she really understood the book even though she sped through it.


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#17 of 20 Old 01-02-2012, 12:17 PM
 
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I am curious about moms who have gone through this process with younger ones and what happens as they get older. My son just turned 5 and I decided to time him in a chapter book. I clocked him at about 250 words a minute. Was it your experience that they keep getting faster - or just progress quickly and level off more quickly? One thought to the mom who hasn't read the books that her child has - search online for book group questions - sometimes even provided by the authors. 

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#18 of 20 Old 01-03-2012, 12:09 PM
 
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I'm not certain of th definition of speed reading, but I know that I am a fast reader.  One time I did the demo for a speed reading program.  My initial test was something like 987 wpm.  After they did their thing, my second test was 1007.  Dh, however, tested at 340-something, and increased into the 800s. 

 

Unless I am reading something technically, I tend to read by idea, not by word.  My brain seems to take in multiple parts of a page at once, and assembles them later.  I am getting the feel of the story, almost as if I am watching it, almost in spite of the words.  I cannot always answer specific questions, but do get the gist of the story, and have plenty to think about later.  Sometimes I re-read a book and find that I am gettting more out of it than before, but since I am usually reading for ideas and not details, not much changes.

 

My dd seems to be quite a fast reader.  I've never thought to time her, but that would be fun.  Last year (at 5) she was reading Little House on the Prairie books in about 3 hours.  She, at 6, reads comfortably at a 3-4th grade level, and finishes most books intended for that age range in 2-3 hours. 

 

In short, I don't think it is a problem.  :)  I would, if I were concerned, maybe buy something that he would have to read technically and apply. 


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#19 of 20 Old 01-03-2012, 12:51 PM
 
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My understanding of speed reading, and it's the way I read books, is that you don't really read some words. Anything less then 3 letters (or, and, to, but, etc) are skipped. The brain can fill them in with out having to actually reading them. So the sentence "But what about her arch nemesis the mysterious Witch?" Becomes "What about arch nemesis mysterious Witch?" 

Much like Mizelenius' daughter I can re-read a book I love over and over, not because I can't remember it but because I love how the words string together. 

 

It wasn't until I got married that I found out not everyone reads like this. I always knew other people read slower then me but it never really clicked that I read in a different way until my husband pointed out how weird it was that I read a 1000 page book in a weekend of casual reading. He asked me how I did it and I explained how and he gave me a funny look.

 

I've never had a problem with comprehension, in most cases I can find the exact paragraph in which something is referenced. Broad questions do throw me, I still can't for the life of me explain what the Theme of a book is. I do fine with major plot points, characters and such. 

 

As a child and teen my major problem with reading was I would do it for so long I'd end up giving myself a headache.

 

Not sure if this is helpful at all or if it even applies to more then just myself. 


Wife to a wonderful man, not a mommy yet but looking forward to when we are ready. 
"Love isn't something you find. Love is something that finds you." Loretta Young
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#20 of 20 Old 01-04-2012, 01:37 AM
 
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Another speed reader here.

 

One thing to keep in mind is that it is a world of difference between speed reading fiction and skimming through advanced academic texts. In the former texts, the details doesn't really matter. In the later, they do.

 

This is something I have personally really struggled with. As a child, I read mostly fiction with a little bit of natural science for children thrown in there in my spare time. The schoolbooks I read in school all used an easier language, to be easier to grasp for children. This combined into me not really getting any practise reading advanced academic texts as a child.

 

Once I did start to read philosophy from source texts, I was quite frustrated. It was not that I did not understand the texts I was reading. The words were never any problem. The problem was that I could not speed read them because of simply not being used to the particular kind of language used. My brain did not know where to skip, how to skip, where to pay attention and what could go under the radar. Of course, with more and more reading of advanced academic texts I am learning how to speed read them too. I just wish, I hadn't had to come to a literal halt with these kind of texts, before picking up speed again.

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